One of Arkansas' Own "Hidden Figures"

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - In light of the hit, award-nominated movie 'Hidden Figures' - based on black, female professionals who did groundbreaking work for NASA's space program in the 1960s - having been released recently, it was uncovered that Arkansas has a "hidden figure" of its own...
 
She was not working for NASA, but rather she was working for the U.S. government in Washington, D.C., around the same time, doing similar work.
 
And just as the 'Hidden Figures' working for NASA, Raye Montague, an African American woman from Arkansas, was working for the Navy during a time in which you wouldn't have expected to see her. 
 
"You have identification on you?"
"NASA, sir."
"I had no idea they hired...."
 
This clip from 'Hidden Figures', based on the true story of three African America women, gives a glimpse into what the working environment back in the '60s was like. 
 
When Raye was asked what she thought of the movie, she responded, "That was my story..."
 
She was Arkansas' own hidden figure.
 
"You should be an engineer. I'm a negro woman. I'm not going to entertain the impossible," a character from the movie said.
 
While the three characters in the movie overcame odds working as engineers and mathematicians - Raye was blazing trails of her own.  
 
"They were with NASA. I was with the Navy. But we were doing the same types of things," Montague explained.
 
Raye, a civilian engineer working for the navy, like one of the characters in the movie, figured out how to work an IBM computer on her own. 
 
"I listened and learned," Raye said.
 
She would eventually be asked to design part of a prestigious war ship, the FFG7 Friget, using a computer.
 
"The admirals came to me and said, 'Young lady, we understand you have a system to design ships,' and I said 'Yes.'" Raye said.
 
What was supposed to take two months to design - Raye was only given one month.
 
"I brought that rascal in in 18 hours and 26 minutes," Raye said, laughing.
 
She's been honored with many awards - once receiving the third highest Navy recognition given to a civilian - and she was also nominated by the Secretary of the Navy to become the Federal Woman of the Year.
 
"He said [that] I have revolutionized the design process for all naval ships and submarines," Raye recounted.
 
Raye said the 'Hidden Figures' movie brought back many memories for her.
 
"I always worked with a large group of men. They always looked at me as though 'What are you doing here?'" Raye said.
 
But she demonstrated her value, and credits her mother with instilling within her a strong sense-of-self, always telling her she could do anything.
 
"I did this in spite of the system..." Raye said.
 
Breaking many glass ceilings for women who'd follow in her footsteps, Raye Montague is a "hidden figure" in clear sight.

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